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Electronics Production | June 05, 2007

Flash making a splash in<br>portable media players

Flash memory is set to invade the Portable Media Player (PMP) market in a big way in the coming years, with the number of flash-equipped PMPs expected to rise by a factorof more than 25 from 2006 to 2011, according to iSuppli Corp.

In 2011, the number of flash-equipped PMPs shipped is set to rise to 150.2 million units, 25.5 times as many as the 5.9 million in 2006. Shipments of flash-equipped PMPs will increase to 54.8 million units in 2007, nearly nine times the level of 2006. iSuppli defines a PMP as an MP3 player capable of video playback and equipped with suitable color display. Meanwhile, shipments of PMPs equipped with the alternative form of storage, Hard Disk Drives (HDDs), will rise at a much more moderate rate, increasing to 35.3 million units in 2011, slightly more than the 29.3 million in 2007. “NAND flash costs are nearing a point where makers of MP3 music players can add enough capacity to support video content, which requires significantly more storage than audio," said Chris Crotty, senior analyst, consumer electronics, for iSuppli. “The average cost of NAND flash memory will decline by 47.1 percent per year from 2005 to 2010." The two types of storage media used for players, NAND flash memory and HDDs, both have advantages and disadvantages, Crotty noted. NAND's advantages include longer battery life, smaller size, more flexible form factors, and a wider variety of capacities. On the downside, NAND costs more per megabit than HDD storage and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, iSuppli predicts. HDDs are less expensive than flash, but lead to shortened battery lives, are more susceptible to mechanical failure and have a large and rigid form factor that increases the size of PMPs. As with video overall, market leader Apple was not the first company to introduce a flash based PMP. But the company likely will add new video capable flash players on the heels of launching its iPhone. “Apple's next iPod could very well be an iPhone without the phone part," Crotty noted.
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